War Memorials

LPNC opposes the ownership of war memorials by government. We call for the divestment of all existing war memorials by governments at all levels and for governments to stop building or accepting ownership of war memorials going forward.

Libertarianism contends that government should be kept to a minimum. No government resources should be spent on any enterprise which can be handled by private organization. War memorials are no exception. Setting aside the issue of a government decision to engage in warfare, it is clear that war memorials can be and have been erected with entirely private resources. However popular, no war memorial needs government resources or endorsements.

Every war, by definition, involves a degree of controversy. Citizens with honorable intentions, both as individuals and as members of organizations, have both supported and opposed all of them. Further, many citizens also oppose some or all of the goals of any given war. It is true that most wars have a majority of citizen support, at least at the beginning. But however one feels about the need for public support for the conduct of war itself, there is no need for all taxpayers to contribute to any effort to memorialize a war. And when a given war is especially controversial, the conscription of all taxpayers’ resources for the building and maintenance of a memorial is especially unfair to those who have opposed the war or the conduct or goals of its leaders.

This is especially true in the USA regarding the American Civil War. It may never be possible for American citizens to all agree on the issues surrounding the causes or conduct of that war, but no government effort to memorialize either side is acceptable.

As a matter of freedom of speech, any citizen, or group of citizens should be free to plan and build a memorial to those who fought in a given war. Likewise, any citizen or group of citizens should be free to plan or build a memorial in opposition to that war or any who fought in it. There is no need for any government entity to take the side of either citizen effort, nor to accept ownership of a memorial which private citizens have created.

Therefore all government agencies which have custody of a war memorial should auction off such memorials to private owners, who would have the obligation of moving them to private land at private expense. In cases where a memorial was funded with private resources, then given to government, it may be appropriate to reimburse the original donors with a portion of the funds raised at auction, minus the amount of any government funding which went to maintenance of the memorial.